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By the Well
Fran Barber & Robyn Whitaker
A weekly podcast where a Biblical scholar and a Minister explore one of the lectionary texts to equip preachers to proclaim the Word.
4 days ago
B111 - Lent 3 (Exod 20:1-17; 1 Cor 1:18-25; John 2:13-22)
Dorothy Lee joins us as we talk about the liberating force of the Ten Commandments as a grace-filled way to live out salvation. We touch on Paul’s counter-cultural theology of the cross in Corinthians: God goes with shame and undercuts our notions of strength and power. Dorothy outlines how worship and market places operated in the temple, highlighting a key way John 2 has been misinterpreted. The writer of John is concerned with who Jesus is as the temple of God, and the manifestation of his glory in his resurrection. we talk about what it might mean for the church to be cleansed. We refer to El Greco’s painting The Cleansing of the Temple.
Feb 18, 2021
B110 - Lent 2 (Mark 8:31-38; Gen 17:1-7; 15-17)
God comes to Abraham with the promise of a new future, one where God is present and faithful. We talk about covenant, the paradox of walking before God and following the call. We mention the nature of human response to God: Abram falls on his face – laughing, Peter (in Mark) rebukes Jesus. God’s faithfulness in Genesis is the backdrop to the sharp call to discipleship found in Mark 8. We explore what denial of the self means, and underline that suffering is ‘for the sake of the gospel’ not to further oppress those already bowed down. We mention this article by Robyn Whitaker and this book by David Carr.
Feb 16, 2021
B100 - An introduction to Mark
A bonus episode for the lectionary Year of Mark. Robyn sat down with Rev. Dr. Sally Douglas to unpack the themes and theology of Mark’s gospel. Mark is the earliest, shortest and perhaps most dramatic of the gospels. It proclaims the good news of liberation from evil through divine inversion of power, epitomised in the cross. Costly discipleship, cosmic battles, and the cross are key themes throughout. We mention “The Dark Side” documentary and Raquel St Clair’s “Call and Consequences: A Womanist Reading of Mark”.
Feb 11, 2021
B109 - Lent 1 (Gen 9:8-17, Mark 1:9-15)
Echoes from the first creation story ring throughout Genesis 9 as God establishes a renewed covenant with Noah and ‘every living creature’. We note the emphasis on God being the main player in this covenant; there is nothing expected of Noah or creation, except to receive God’s faithfulness. God’s faithfulness is in remembering God’s people. What is the human experience of being forgotten and remembered? We highlight Mark’s use of geography and apocalyptic imagery to paint Jesus as the unlikely new human to bring the kingdom near, and to be the one who is God’s remembering for all time.
Feb 3, 2021
B108 - Transfiguration (2 Kgs 2:1-12, Mark 9:2-9)
Brian Kolia joins the podcast to discuss the unusual succession story in 2 Kings 2 and the Transfiguration in Mark 9. Whether it’s chariots of fire, separating water, heavenly ascent, or discovering God is in the dark shadow, these stories are rich with imagery and preaching themes.
Feb 1, 2021
B107 - Epiphany 5 (Mk 1:29-34, Isaiah 40:21-31)
Both readings this week give profound insight into the nature of God in diverse and complementary ways. Robyn and Fran talk about “Jesus the exorcist” in Mark’s gospel and how healing and exorcism are signs of the capacity of Jesus to liberate humanity from evil. Isaiah 40 poses the question “to whom can you liken God?”. Addressed to exiles to inspire hope, Isaiah offers an expansive, awe-inspiring account of the God who strengthens the weak and overturns the powerful. We refer to this article by Julia Baird on the “overview effect” and this commentary on Mark by Joel Marcus.
Jan 22, 2021
B106 - Epiphany 4 (Mk 1:21-28, 1 Cor 8, Dt 18:15-20)
Authority and identity emerge as key themes in Mark 1:21-28 as Jesus is portrayed as one powerful enough to cast out evil and liberate people from the power of evil. This is Mark’s Good News! We unpack ancient ideas of ‘unclean spirits’ or demons and discuss how our preaching and teaching might aspire to be transformative and healing in ways similar to Jesus’. Other options this week are Pauline ethics and how we show similar concern for the vulnerable in exercising freedom (1 Cor 8), what it means to “fear” God (Psalm 111), or thinking about how we continue the prophetic tradition of “naming” sin and evil (Deut 18).
Jan 13, 2021
B105 - Repentence, Mercy, Call (Jonah 3 and Mark 1:14-20)
The book of Jonah is deceptively simple. It is often reduced to a children’s tale when, using the vehicle of humour, Jonah delivers challenging themes about the abundant mercy of God – mercy that sees not only our enemies blessed, but that we, like Jonah, might actually be the instrument of that blessing. Repentance, while an implicit theme in Jonah, is more explicit in the Mark passage (1:14-20), and we refer to a theologically nuanced understanding of repentance in contrast to unhelpful, individualistic notions. We speak about the ambivalence amongst many western churches to engage in ‘fishing’, and note the way repentance, good news and evangelism cannot be separated. We refer to an article by Rebecca Giggs Inner Space Ched Myers’ _Binding the Strong Man_.
Dec 11, 2020
B104 - Advent 4 (Annunciation and Magnificat, Luke 1:26-38, 46-55)
Rev. Sharon Hollis, President-elect of the Uniting Church, joins the conversation for Advent 4. We discuss how Mary is portrayed as a prophet in Luke 1 and the surprising agency she has (for that time) in speaking her consent (1:26-38) and her song of praise and protest (1:46-55). Her particularity as a young Jewish girl living in occupied territory makes her song the song of colonised women everywhere who draw upon their cultural traditions to proclaim liberation. We note the promise that Jesus will “sit on the throne of David” fulfils the covenant in 2 Samuel 7:1-11 and reveals God’s faithfulness. We refer to Anne Elvey’s Reading the Magnificat in Australia and Elizabeth Johnson’s Truly Our Sister.
Dec 2, 2020
B103 - Advent 3 (Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11; Luke 1:46-55; John 1:6-8, 19-28)
Dr Angela Sawyer returns to speak about Isaiah 61, a passage that reflects the concerns of returned exiles, the difficulty of life under colonial rule, and hope in God reversing the fortunes of the marginalised. The alternate to the Psalm this week is Mary’s Magnificat, a song that continues these themes hundreds of years later. And the gospel reading gives us another view on John “the Baptist” presenting him as a witness, inviting reflection on how we witness or testify to Christ today. We refer to Ched Myers’ _Binding the Strong Man_. Vivaldi’s Business Plan by Samuel Wells
Nov 25, 2020
B102 - Advent 2 (Isaiah 40:1-11; Mark 1:1-8)
Dr Angela Sawyer joins us to explore the tender and powerful image of God in Isaiah 40, as well as the cosmic and personal hope the end of exile represents to Israel. We talk about suffering and the yearning for freedom and fulfilment in Israel’s foundational story, and how it informs and shapes ours (communally). In a few short phrases Mark 1 outlines the subversive character of Mark’s writing, and of Jesus’ message of ‘good news’. We note that everybody came to hear John talk about repentance: what is the peculiar task of preaching about repentance in the 21st century? We highlight some key Advent questions: for whom are we waiting and why? We refer to Ched Myers’, _Binding the Strong Man_ and Rick Morton’s _One Hundred of Dirt_.
Nov 18, 2020
B101 - Advent 1 (Isa 64:1-9; Mark 13:24-37)
The lectionary readings at the beginning of Advent invite us to ponder the inbreaking of God. What might it mean to live as watchful Christians, to raise our eyes above the fray and look for the presence of God in our world? We acknowledge that the cry for divine justice in Isaiah 64 is a cry of both lament and hope. It comes from a colonised people and continues to echo in our current world. Mark 13 takes us into apocalyptic territory, inviting us to consider the coming of Jesus in power and glory with themes that look forward to the cross. We refer to Robert Alter’s Translation of the Hebrew Bible , Ched Myers’ _Binding the Strong Man, _and an education initiative (including Advent bibles studies) from St Mark the Evangelist: Illuminating Faith
Nov 11, 2020
A155 - Reign of Christ (Ezek 34; Ps 100; Matt 25:31-46)
On the last week of the lectionary year, Fran and Robyn delve into the way the reign of God is described in these readings. Ezekiel 34:11-24 imagines God as a shepherd who protects the sheep, unlike the priests Ezekiel condemns as having failed as leaders. Matthew presents the Son of Man as a judge who will separate humanity as a shepherd divides the sheep from goats on the basis of ethical or righteous behaviour. Both texts convey God as a “king” concerned for justice. The Psalm speaks of the joy of entering God’s presence - balancing the image of judgement in Matthew. We mention this book by Meghan Henning: https://www.amazon.com.au/Educating-Early-Christians-Through-Rhetoric/dp/3161529634
Nov 4, 2020
A154 - Pentecost 24 (Judges 4:1-7; Psalm 123; Matthew 25: 14-30)
This week is the only chance in the RCL to preach on the book of Judges, specifically on a section about Deborah, the only female of the 6 judges named. We are joined by Monica Melanchthon, who talks about the importance of preaching from Judges, both in spite of its difficult, violent themes, and because of them: much of the conflict in the world echoes the dynamics in the book. The persistent grace of God in recalling the Israelites despite their turning away is the repeated theological theme. Monica redresses some traditional opinions of Deborah, which have underplayed her intelligence and her influence. Psalm 123 is a psalm of Ascent, and Monica points to the potent image of ‘eyes’ which appears throughout, and which signify relationship with the divine. Matthew 25:14-30 is the parable of the talents, and we talk about common misreadings that reduce the story to the moral plane. Are the talents gifts of the Holy Spirit given so the church may live in the ‘in betwe…
Oct 29, 2020
A153 - Pentecost 23 (Josh 24, 1 Thess 4, Matt 25:1-13)
This week preachers are invited to think about taking the opportunity to talk about resurrection and what happens at “the end” through the parable of the ten wedding attendants in Matthew (25:1-13), which is a way to talk about entrance into the future kingdom of heaven, or Paul’s assurance to the Thessalonians (1 Thess 4:13-18) that even the dead will be included in the resurrection. We combat some of the bad rapture theology often associated with this passage too. Joshua 24 invites reflection on how communities remember, recommit to God, and ritualise those commitments. The invitation to choose God in response to being chosen is a reminder of the radical grace of YHWH in these texts, yet the setting invites critique and naming of the problem of colonisation. We refer to this commentary by Craig Keener. https://www.amazon.com.au/Gospel-Matthew-C-Keener/dp/0802864988 and to the Brazos Theological Commentary on Thessalonians 1 & 2 by Douglas Farrow 1 & 2 Thessalonians (Br…
Oct 26, 2020
A152 - All Saints / Pentecost 22 (1 John 3; Rev 7; Matt 23:1-12)
Rev. Dr. Sunny Chen joins us for a conversation about the Greek words for love, resurrection promises, preaching for All Saints (All Souls) day, and Christian leadership. The All Saints readings discussed are: 1 John 3:1-3, Revelation 7:19-17, and Matt 5:1-12. Those following the regular Sunday passages can hear a discussion of the Matthew 23 passage in the second part of the episode. Hyperlink: For those wanting to explore the Matthew 5 reading for All Saints day, please check out episode A111 with Sally Douglas. https://bythewell.com.au/a111-epiphany-4-matthew-51-12-the-beatitudes-with-sally-douglas/
Oct 14, 2020
A151 - Pentecost 21 (Deuteronomy 34:1-12; Psalm 90; 1 Thess 2; Matt 22:34-46)
Rev Dev Anandarajan joins us for a conversation about Moses’ humble leadership in the story of his death in Deut 32. Moses is not heard bargaining with God over not getting into the promised land. The story stresses, instead, the centrality of the journey of obedience for a people ‘on the way’. Dev explores psalm 90 for our (covid) context. We note differences in leadership between Moses and Paul (in Thessalonians), and note the radical newness of Jesus’ leadership/messiahship in bringing us over, in him, to the new creation. We explore the nature of the love to which we’re called in Matthew 22.
Oct 7, 2020
A150 - Pentecost 20 (Exod 33; 1 Thess 1; Matt 22:15-22)
Kylie Crabbe returns as guest co-host to discuss Moses’ request to see God (Exod 33:12-23), Paul’s opening thanksgiving and affirmation in 1 Thessalonians (1:1-10), and Jesus’ “test” about paying Roman taxes (Matthew 22:15-22). Exodus invites us to explore how we discern divine presence - how do we know God is with us? Jesus’ teaching to “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s…” is not an argument for separation of church and state. Rather this passage invites us to explore the complex, inseparable relationship between religion and politics. Find out more about Kylie Crabbe and her scholarship here: https://www.acu.edu.au/research/our-research-institutes/institute-for-religion-and-critical-inquiry/our-people/kylie-crabbe
Sep 30, 2020
A149 - Pentecost 19 (Exod 32:1-14; Matt 22:1-14)
Kylie Crabbe steps in as co-host to discuss the episode with the Golden Calf (Exod 32) and the difficult parable of Matthew 22. No one in the parable gets it right. Many are invited to the wedding banquet but few are “chosen,” inviting us to ponder what a response worthy of acceptance would look like? Find out more about Kylie Crabbe and her scholarship here: https://www.acu.edu.au/research/our-research-institutes/institute-for-religion-and-critical-inquiry/our-people/kylie-crabbe
Sep 23, 2020
A148 - Pentecost 18 (Exod 20:1-20; Matt 21:33-46)
Megan Turton, a specialist on law in the Hebrew Bible, joins us to talk about the Decalogue and legal narrative in Exodus. Holiness, identity, and mutual covenant are key themes to explore. In the gospel reading, conflict continues between Jesus and the other Jewish leaders. We discuss the parable of the vineyard in Matthew 21 and the challenge of preaching such passages without repeating the anti-jewish sentiments of the text. Willie James Jennings, _The Christian Imagination_ https://www.amazon.com.au/Christian-Imagination-Theology-Origins-Race/dp/0300171366 The lecture Fran mentioned by Jennings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5ZGwuwcHV0
Sep 19, 2020
A147 – Pentecost 17 (Exodus 17:1-7; Matthew 21:23-32)
Questions of Jesus’ authority – an ongoing focus in Matthew – now come to the fore in the parable from chapter 21, as Jesus’ challenge to the temple authorities escalates. The theme of consistency, being publicly honest about what one believes, emerges. The gospel is real about our ongoing failure to be consistent. We point to the grace in Christ, the faithful consistent one, and in God who is with us as he is in Godself. We warn against simplistic supersessionist readings of this parable of the two sons. Themes of God’s faithfulness & provision continue in the Exodus passage, as the Israelites’ fear, anxiety and grumbling continue. We speak of leadership in trying times – Moses’ and God’s and how they relate. We refer to an interesting New Testament link to the water in the rock. We suggest the Exodus passage contains an excellent title for a sermon, especially in covid times (when our gathering is so compromised): “Is the Lord among us or not?”.
Sep 9, 2020
A146 – Pentecost 16: (Exodus 16:2-15; Psalm 105; Matthew 20:1-16)
The Israelites’ journey to freedom in Exodus is hard and their complaints understandable. The providence of God dominates the passage. God hears and responds to the people, providing what they need and testing their willingness to trust him into the future. God offers equity not ‘equality’ as we understand it, and how that can rile (cf Matthew reading). We note the distinctly political power of this passage, and also the way it may be a metaphor for journeys of faith. The Matthew parable disturbs simplistic notions of grace, challenging us to see the chosenness of the workers, and the work they are to do, as part of the blessing, not just the payment as that blessing/reward. Our ideas of ‘justice’ and how God should operate are undone. There is liberation in the passage about how we understand our work (for God) – here and now as the Kingdom has dawned. Walter Bruggemann’s work on the myth of scarcity: https://www.religion-online.org/article/the-liturgy-of-abundance-th…
Sep 7, 2020
A145 – Bonus Episode: Philippians with Sean Winter
Sean Winter, Head of Pilgrim Theological College and Pauline scholar, sits down with Robyn to discuss the themes and setting of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. After some general overview we discuss possible preaching themes in each of the four weeks that Philippians appears in the Year A lectionary – Phil 1:21-30; 2:1-13; 3:4b-14; and 4:1-9. It’s a crash course on the letter to the Philippians! Sean Winter’s profile https://pilgrim.edu.au/about-pilgrim/faculty/research-profile-sean-winter/ Find us on youtube here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCROqeXaA9k-oqCfBn4n8glw
Sep 2, 2020
A144 – Pentecost 15 (Exodus 14:19-31 (15:1b-11); Matt 18:21-35)
Themes of divine power, liberation, creation and salvation weave throughout the Exodus text. We talk about the ways the Crossing of the Red/Reed Sea has been used by oppressed communities to speak into their hope of freedom, and we also name the real violence that is implicit in the story. We note the echoes of Genesis 1; emphasis in Exodus 14/15 isn’t on military victory/conflict, but rather the power of God to bring renewal in impossible circumstances. In the Matthew passage we hear about the centrality of forgiveness to Christian life, as well as the importance of acknowledging sin and the need for consequences. We refer to confession of sin in our liturgy, and the message of the gospel that we are a forgiven people. We grapple with the reality that those we’ve wronged are not ready/able to forgive. We point to Jesus as the one who embodies the gift of forgiveness but who labours still under the effects of sin – revealing God’s promise of restoration while not denying the p…
Aug 26, 2020
A143 – Pentecost 14 (Exod 12:1-14, Matt 18:15-20)
Bill Loader joins the podcast this week to help unpack Matthew’s advice in resolving Christian conflict without gossiping (Mt 18:15-20). We discuss the tension between forgiveness and judgment in this section of Matthew’s Gospel, between holding offenders accountable and the ongoing demand to love them. Exodus 12 tells the story of Passover, a story that undergirds both ancient and living rituals that are foundational for Jewish identity and speak about the liberating love of God. We point out that the Passover lamb is not a sin sacrifice, but a symbol that protects and frees. Such theological images are applied to Jesus’ death in the NT. Bill Loader’s Lectionary resources page: http://wwwstaff.murdoch.edu.au/~loader/lectionaryindex.html Joel Baden’s Exodus Book. https://press.princeton.edu/books/hardcover/9780691169545/the-book-of-exodus